Venturing into the world of colocation can be a daunting task. There are many factors that must be considered before you take the first step. Is colocation for you? Lets find out.
What exactly is Colocation?
When you are colocating you are purchasing your own server hardware, housing it in a data center complete with security, regulated power, and a dedicated Internet connection. The company that owns the data center will ensure that your servers remain secured against tampering while providing a clean and temperature regulated environment for your servers. All hardware is owned by you. Should a server fail, it will be up to you to ship the replacement hardware to the data center. The only exception to this rule is if you work out a management plan with the data center you are colocating with.
How do you begin Colocating?
In order to begin colocating servers you must start with the basics. Purchase the servers that you will be colocating to the data center. It is highly recommend for you to purchase a supply of replacement hardware for your servers. This way, should a piece of hardware fail, you will be able to immediately ship out the replacement hardware to the data center. The other option is to go to the data center and replace the hardware yourself should you live within the vicinity of the building. The next step is choosing a data center. Things to look for are reliability, support, network stability, location, and history. You want to ensure that your servers are going to be on a stable network with a robust backup solution in case of a power outage. It is also important that the support be top notch. They’re housing servers that you have shelled out a large sum of money for, thus you want to ensure that when you need something from the data center they are able to provide you with service quickly and efficiently. The location of the data center is also important, especially if you have a target market. If you are trying to appeal to people on the east coast of the United States, then you would want a data center located somewhere on the east coast. Lastly, the history of the data center. Talk to people that house servers there, or have housed servers there in the past. Get an idea of what their experiences were like. If they left, be sure to ask why they left. Browsing web sites and forums online is also another great resource to find out more about a data center, what they offer and what they are like.
Costs and benefits of Colocation
So, you’re ready to take the plunge. While the upfront costs of colocation are larger than rental, the long term benefits are greater. You own all of your own hardware, you can build your servers using any combination of hardware you desire, and you have physical access to your servers anytime day or night. If you start off with ten servers and rent a quarter rack at a data center, this will typically run you around $350 per month. Next, you can decide exactly how much bandwidth you’d like for your servers. 10Mbit/sec of bandwidth spread across the ten servers will cost approximately $750 per month. The great thing about this is you can decide exactly how much bandwidth you’re going to need for your servers. The largest aspect of the initial cost is the servers you’re building or buying. A typical mid-range to high end server may cost you between $2,000 and $5,000 each. However, over time they will pay for themselves. You have complete control over the type of hardware that is used to build your servers. This gives you a lot more flexibility and redundancy once they are up and running. However, colocation is best used when your company needs servers in bulk. You save money on hardware and bandwidth costs, and have less monthly fees over time.
Colocation or a Dedicated Server?
Dedicated server hosting is fantastic if you only need a single mail server for your company, or a small number of servers for any number of applications. However, once you start buying in bulk the costs of dedicated servers far surpass colocated servers. The majority of dedicated server providers use lower quality hardware, charge monthly fees for hardware upgrades and don’t provide on-site access to the servers. A ram upgrade outside of their stock servers may cost you anywhere from $50 to $100 per month, per server. This adds up quickly and will far surpass your initial start up costs for colocating within one to two years. When you colocate you are buying exactly how much bandwidth you need. Also, the network is normally more stable, has lower latency and is under-provisioned by the provider. They will always make sure that the total sum of bandwidth available is greater than what is being sold to their clients. When you rent servers from a dedicated server provider they will give you much larger chunks of bandwidth in the hope that no more than ¼ of their users will utilize the full capacity of their bandwidth. This, in time, leads to network degradation which in turn will affect your users and your business.
The Final Word
Colocating is most affective if you are in need of custom server configurations, need servers in bulk and desire premium bandwidth. However, for smaller operations a dedicated server is a viable solution and should not be written off. Whichever route you decide to venture down, it would be wise to estimate the long-term costs for each, as well as determine the needs of your company before you write the first check.
Read all about Colocation Essentials in this guide.
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